It’s the second of February and finally, after being transferring unit ‘really soon’ since November, I am being moved from Southampton to Yorkshire. On climbing inside the private ambulance at dawn I discovered that I was being transported in what appeared to be a mobile padded cell. The floor to ceiling carpet and barred cage gave an amazingly authentic insane asylum on-the-go vibe. I hasten to add I was not travelling in the cage; though if I had there would at least have been the benefit of being able to face the same way that we were travelling.
It turns out that playing card games at dawn whilst rattling backwards down a motorway is pretty hard. All parties- myself, dog and occupational therapist were unimpressed at the early start. Myself and OT Supremo were travelling backwards with ambulance man Dave, who kept falling asleep in his seat, facing us. When he wasn’t asleep he was telling us about the bit of motorway we were on or beating us both at Uno.
“Is this how they transfer criminals?” I asked, about an hour and several games of uno in to the journey.
“Sometimes… But we’d have them in the cage with a lot more escorts.” Dave replied, as I wasn’t in the cage and had been told I was being transferred by the ‘secure’ service for petrol cost cutting benefits only, I began to feel more at ease.
At the service station a couple of hours later (and now in daylight) I realised that the vehicle looked to all the world like a white, rather grubby, transit van. This coupled with the soundproofed interior, cage and blacked out windows made me wonder if I was in fact involved in the world’s most ineffectual kidnap and whether I would actually ever get to Yorkshire. I decided that most hostages don’t merrily play card games with their abductors, so I was safe.
If given the choice on any long journey, one should always take an Occupational Therapist. The things they hold on their person on a daily basis is undeniably impressive. The OT Supremo I travelled with had in her handbag alone; a colouring book, a large assortment of pens, a decorative fabric heart to be customised, and a multilayer Tupperware box of nuts and seeds. All of which were put to good use on the journey.
Seven hours on, the van pulled up and we all jumped out lead by Brian the driver. With his clipboard in hand he went into a rather decrepit looking building, only to return five minutes later.
“I went in and said we’re here and they says that it was a unit for the deaf… So I think: ‘she’s blind’ and then they tell me that the outpatient bit is Nextdoor. So… I go to outpatient, but I says ‘we don’t need outpatient, we need inpatient’. So they gives me this address.” He recounts whilst gesturing to the mobile padded cell and clutching a street name on the back of a leaflet, clearly a bit perplexed.
“He’s good is Brian. Used to be a traffic cop. Driving’s in his blood.” Dave tells us when we are belted back in the van. “Isn’t that right Bri?!” He shouts through the tiny Perspex hatch which Brian had been silently driving behind all day. Brian then proceeded to sail past my new unit three times, whilst grumbling about not having the post code. It was on the third time that we saw *Cheery Lodge sail by that OT Supreme spoke up and got Brian and Dave to pull up and move my luggage inside.
And then I was there. In the appropriate region and with genuine northern people at last. However I was also saying goodbye to someone who helped me infinitely during my time at *Heron. Saying goodbye to OT Supremo was hard, and with her I said goodbye to my make-shift home for the last six months. And the future, in a brand new unit, seemed a whole lot scarier.